By John Patrick Dolan
Wouldn’t it be great if every client agreed to all the terms of a sale, no questions asked and no negotiation required? Although most people answer “yes” to this question, any salesperson knows that negotiating a sale is never that easy. Although negotiation is one of the most commonly practiced functions of communication, it is often the least understood.
Because most people don’t understand the dynamics of negotiation, they may get nervous or apprehensive about the process. Even professional salespeople get sweaty palms and anxious stomachs before sitting down at the bargaining table. The trouble resides in all the myths associated with negotiation. Regardless of what you’re selling, you can make the inevitable sales process more productive when you understand and overcome the following seven myths of negotiation:
Myth 1: In order to be a successful negotiator, you must be a difficult customer.
Mythbuster: This statement is false. In fact, most people become difficult in sales situations because they are poor negotiators and must resort to ruthlessness to get what they want. In reality, effective negotiation has a great deal to do with the attitude you bring to the table. If you approach negotiation as a win-or-lose battle, then that’s exactly what you’ll get: a battle. You’ll struggle against the other party, waste time and energy defending positions, and resort to sneaking things past your counterparts. Then when it’s all said and done, you’ll probably come away with less than if you’d have treated the negotiation as an opportunity for everyone involved to profit.
Myth 2: Negotiating is synonymous with fighting.
Mythbuster: Fights generally break out when people can’t negotiate effectively. When you understand effective negotiation, you can actually head off misunderstandings and conflicts that may arise. You’ll know how to settle issues with customers without fighting. In many cases, you’ll be able to mediate conflicts, misunderstandings, or stalemates between other people and groups.
Myth 3: Negotiating is a talent reserved for shrewd businesspeople, experienced diplomats, and precocious children.
Mythbuster: Anyone can learn to negotiate effectively. Most salespeople don’t consider themselves professional negotiators. Many equate professional negotiators with hard-charging corporate raiders launching takeovers on other businesses, diplomats meeting to discuss the fates of nations, or lawyers settling million-dollar lawsuits.
The truth is, every person on the planet is a negotiator. Many times, they don’t even realize it. When you take time to learn the art of effective negotiation, you actually can get more of what you want. You can forge better and more productive relationships with your clients and all the people around you in other areas of life.
Myth 4: When you sit down at the bargaining table, you must abandon all ethics to get what you want.
Mythbuster: Getting what you want doesn’t mean stealing it from others. By understanding negotiation, you can prevent being conned into things you don’t want to do or getting less than you deserve. Consider negotiating for a new sales position. The terms you agree on with the new employer will obviously affect your time with that particular company as well as your time with future employers. The compensation package from one company will set the pattern for the level of income you can command when negotiating with other companies. It’s not unusual for the difference in two people’s earnings to be more affected by their individual negotiating abilities than by their experience or talents.
Myth 5: You must have the upper hand to negotiate effectively.
Mythbuster: If you think that negotiation involves one group trying to beat the other out of a good deal, then you have an inaccurate perception of the process. Actually, the weaker your position the better your negotiating skills must be, because you can save a huge amount of money. For example, suppose you’re negotiating the price of a new computer system for your company. The person selling the system knows your current system is outdated and that you must make a purchase immediately to stay competitive. If you can bring the price down $15,000 from what the seller asks, you’ll save much more than the upfront cost. By the time you add interest on a five-year financing plan, you’ll have quite a savings that’s well worth the negotiating effort.
Myth 6: Negotiating is a time time-wasting activity that only clogs the wheels of progress.
Mythbuster: When done right, negotiating is an enormous timesaver because it makes everyone work together to find solutions. Rather than struggling through a one-sided sale, it is much easier when both parties understand how to negotiate and actively participate in the process to produce the best results possible for everyone. Plus, enlisting others can help fulfill your plans and dreams.
Myth 7: Negotiating is always a formal process with clearly defined parameters and procedures.
Mythbuster: Negotiating is the sum and substance of all human give and take. That’s right; negotiation actually takes many different forms that you may not normally consider. For example, if you and your spouse are deciding who’s going to prepare dinner and who’s going to clean up the dirty dishes, then you’re negotiating. Or maybe you’re haggling over the price of an item at a garage sale with the seller; this is also a negotiating process. Chances are you negotiate much more frequently than you think. In fact, any time you’re making a deal or working out any kind of agreement with anyone, you’re negotiating. If you’re conducting these daily negotiations effectively, you’ll reach agreements that satisfy both parties. You can actually improve your professionalism in dealing with all types of people by applying some of the negotiation skills you practice without realizing it.
Busting the Myths of Negotiation: Human beings negotiate constantly, so it’s vital to get beyond the negative thoughts that cause us to ask for less than we deserve. The art of negotiation requires more than just trading off with others to get the things you want. Negotiating is a process of understanding people and discovering ways you can work together to produce positive results for everyone involved.
When you understand the myths surrounding the negotiation process and overcome them, you will reap greater benefits from your negotiations. Most importantly, you’ll come away from every sale completely satisfied with yourself and confident that the other party feels a similar satisfaction.
John Patrick Dolan is a convention presenter, member of the National Speakers Association Speakers Hall of Fame, and author of the best selling book “Negotiate Like the Pros.”
[From Connection Magazine – October 2005]